Standing prominently at the end of Commercial Road by the Port River, and visible for quite some distance if you enter the Port via this road, is the Port Adelaide lighthouse which has now become an icon for the area.
The Port Adelaide lighthouse, prefabricated in England and shipped to Australia in pieces, was first lit on January 1st 1869 (though the first light was replaced in 1874 by a much stronger one) and originally stood at the entrance to the Port River where it replaced a former lightship – the Fitzjames.
The British architects intended keepers to live in the iron structure around the base of the tower (picture two). The heat of the South Australian summers made this impossible and alternative living quarters were erected between decks of the stayings – these no longer exist.
In 1901 the lighthouse was relocated – in two parts. Its light was installed in an existing lighthouse on Wonga Shoal off Semaphore Jetty (a bit further along the coast). This lighthouse was destroyed on 17 November 1912 when it was hit by the sailing ship “Dimsdale” killing the two lighthouse keepers on duty. The iron structure was re-erected on South Nepture Island in the Spencer Gulf where it remained in use until 1985 when it was replaced with an electric self-operating lighthouse. While on South Neptune Island keepers and their families lived in a cottage on the island. Interesting for those interested in “firsts”, the 1 November 1901 lighting of the lighthouse on South Neptune Island was the first lighthouse lighting in the new Commonwealth of Australia which had just come into being in January 1901.
In 1985 the lighthouse was acquired by the South Australian Maritime Museum, restored and reassembled at its present location and officially opened to the public by Queen Elizabeth II on 13 March 1986.
When the tower was moved back to Adelaide a time capsule was found. Inside was this poem written by one of the construction workers, bottles and coins.
When the sun doth gild the southern skies
Above these lonely isles
There is no need for this our lighthouse
Nor can’t be seen for many miles
But when the storm and wind doth howl
Upon the ocean wild
The mariner will see this light
Which will beam out so mild
That fancy paints the lights of home
That cottage by the sea
Where dwell his loved ones all secure
From wind and wave while he
Doth work and toil to earn their bread
and die if needs must be
He then will bless this kindly light
And think mayhaps of us
Who built this light that such as he
Might rest secure while it flashed
Its rays across the sea
Within the lighthouse, on the ground floor – originally designed as living quarters – there are a few small exhibits the most interesting of which is a signal flag locker containing a set of international marine signal flags used by ships at sea to relay messages.
To reach the viewing platform on the top you must climb the rather cramped spiral stairs (74 or 75 steps). At the top and before you make your way out onto the viewing platform have a look at the grandfather clock principle apparatus used to rotate the light beam mechanism. This required rewinding every 90 minutes.
From the platform there is a decent, if unspectacular, view back toward Port Adelaide and out towards to port area. For a dollar, why wouldn’t you go up!
If you visit the nearby South Australian Maritime Museum ( and I recommend you do) hold onto your ticket as it includes entrance to the lighthouse. In the event that you don’t wish to visit the museum, entry to the lighthouse is a very modest $1 (50 cents for children).
Weekdays 10am – 2pm. Closed Saturday. Open Sunday 10am to 4pm.
Address: Commercial Road
Directions: End of road by the Port River